Language and Reality in Early Greek Thought


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Classical Studies


This project investigates the relationship between language and reality in early Greek thought. An examination of Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Aeschylus demonstrates that each of these thinkers treats language as an essential—but potentially misleading—vector to knowledge of reality. Language helps us communicate knowledge, but it can also mislead through error or deception. The project argues that the commonality among these thinkers arises from an emerging acknowledgment of the importance of non-perceptual aspects of reality, whether that is an invisible reality “in toto” or intellectual constructs such as concepts. The project treats Aeschylus, Parmenides, and Heraclitus as members of a shared intellectual culture, rather than isolated thinkers, in order to demonstrate first that the relationship between language and reality was a widespread contemporary concern, and second that this concern was part of a growing acknowledgment of the importance of non-sensible, conceptual aspects of that reality.